Bookies tout 61% chance of Brexit deal despite 'unreasonable demands'

Traffic queues on the M20 motorway and the slip road leading to the Channel Tunnel Terminal, near Folkestone in Kent, southern England December 19, 2009. Rail operator Eurostar cancelled all its services on Saturday because of bad weather, after four trains broke down due to freezing weather conditions, trapping about 2,500 passengers overnight in the undersea Channel Tunnel linking France and Britain   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRANSPORT TRAVEL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Lorries queue in Kent as the clock ticks down on a final Brexit decisioon. Photo: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

The odds were still tipped in favour of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU on Sunday morning, despite the continued gulf between the two sides.

Smarkets betting exchange, which calculates average UK odds, was still predicting a 61% chance of an agreement, as the 31 December deadline edges ever closer.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has previously said that this week is the final week for a Brexit deal to be reached, with the bloc setting a deadline for Sunday (20 December), after which it won’t be ratified this year.

Meanwhile, the UK’s health minister Matt Hancock reiterated calls for the EU to amend its position and withdraw “unreasonable demands” in order to secure a deal.

He told Sky News: “We want these talks to reach a positive conclusion, of course I want a deal, I think everybody wants a deal. Unfortunately, the EU have put in some unreasonable demands ... They do not respect the result of the referendum.”

Sticking points remain around the level playing field, fair competition rules and fisheries. Hancock said the deal could be done, but was dependant on the EU amending its position.

UK fishing brings in an annual turnover of about €850m (£770m, $1bn) compared with €650m by EU member states.

Prime minister Boris Johnson rejected the EU’s offer of conceding 25% of its catch by value to UK vessels.

The mood in London remains that the EU needs to move closer to its demand for 60% of the current catch being repatriated, which would be worth about €390m a year.

READ MORE: Brexit: Ministers warned UK businesses 'not prepared' for no-deal

UK officials were warned yesterday that businesses are not prepared for a no-deal Brexit, with the Commons' Brexit committee accusing ministers of “patchy” communications.

The committee's report said communications with businesses have been "patchy at best" and police may be forced to use "slower and more cumbersome" systems. It urged the government to ensure there is a robust contingency plan in place in the next fortnight to cope with the fallout.

Watch: Why is fishing so important in Brexit talks?